I don't think it's been that long without an update, but I appreciate everyone's eagerness!! I will have it out as soon as I can. Work has been busy, and I have been debating the mechanics of 1984 (which I previously thought were all set). Nonetheless, the next chapter, which is one of my favorites, will be out before the end of May! You can hold me to that one.
I don't think it's been that long without an update, but I appreciate everyone's eagerness!! I will have it out as soon as I can. Work has been busy, and I have been debating the mechanics of 1984 (which I previously thought were all set). Nonetheless, the next chapter, which is one of my favorites, will be out before the end of May! You can hold me to that one.
It’s gonna be Literally 1984
13. The Jackals




“I devised the Bert Lance Toe Test then — you go out on the front porch of the house, turn The Washington Post over with your big toe, and if your name's above the fold, you know you're not going to have a good day.”
-Bert Lance

June 19, 1981
The White House —Washington, DC

For some politicians, it was the handshake. They’d go up to a voter and reach their hand out, but really it wasn’t just for a quick shake, it was an invitation. They’d grasp the voter’s hand and then it was over. It was firm, yes. It was supposed to be wasn’t it? Firm handshake. Nice firm handshake. That boy was raised right, you know why? Nice firm handshake. But its power didn’t come from being firm — its power came from what happened next. The clasped hands started out on the side of the voter, but the politician — the smooth politician, the successful politician — inched it back to him with each successive pump, until all of a sudden they were so close the voter could smell the coffee on the politician’s breath. And then — where did that left hand come from? It was on the voter’s forearm, or their bicep. Sometimes it was on their shoulder — and all of a sudden they were practically hugging the man. That’s right. Hugging him. Hugging the next President of the United States. And they were looking in the next president’s eyes. And he heard the voter’s problems. No, really, honesttoGodsonofabitchheardtheirproblem. Yes, he did. He heard it. The voter would bet their life that the politician understood him. He’d remember the story about the voter’s gramma, or Auntie Clarice, or cousin Tish. He’d remember they didn’t have healthcare. They’d lost their union job. They were a teacher paying out of pocket for school supplies. And then, on the cold blistering snowy first-in-the-nation primary, that voter would go out and they’d pull the lever next to their name. And they’d give that politician the most powerful job in the world because of the most powerful handshake in the world. [1]

That was how some politicians won elections, but it wasn’t how Jimmy Carter had gotten here. Reclining back and rotating in his desk chair, pen between his hands, brows furrowed. That was the Jimmy Carter who had won Iowa. Beat Ford. Beat Kennedy. Beat Reagan. A statesman, a prince, and an actor. Dispensed with all three. It wasn’t his handshake. It was — well, Jack Watson, Anne Wexler, Ham Jordan, and Jody Powell were watching it now. The grin.

Every time — no, really every time — it started with a twitch. The corners of his lips wiggled, and then they gave in. They parted, stretching towards his ears, and then those gorgeous pearly white chompers flashed you. Right now, the staff was sitting around, talking about the good news they’d just gotten, but when It Happened during a speech — that was the best grin, because the keen observer had fun along the way.

The part that would make him want to smile would enter Carter’s brain before it left his lips. He was always a few steps ahead. So, when he was giving a speech, he would realize where the text was taking him. The Land Promised. The Paragraph Promised. And so it would start. The faintest twitch on the corners. And then he’d start fighting it — like it was a bunny rabbit in the stream (Powell still laughed at that one), like it was a killer deficit, like it was a Prince of Camelot. He got on top of it. Pushed it down. Wrestled with it. And you’d see it on his face. Oh, he’d be speaking. He’d be going through his sentences. And he’d be fighting that urge all the same — because it wasn’t time. No, not yet. Not time yet. But it was coming, and then he’d join you. By the end, his eyes were lighting up, and then he got there: The Applause Line. The Promised Line. And the audience would cheer, and he would grin, and he would earn their vote.

But right now, there was no speech. Jimmy Carter was just twirling in his chair, and he was taking it all in. He was going to name a Justice to the United States Supreme Court. It was one of those responsibilities that reminded the president he wasn’t just the president — he was the Most Powerful Man In The World. He was making a lifetime appointment to the most important Court in the country, and the person he chose would make big decisions — brave decisions. Decisions like Brown v. Board of Ed. He was naming a Justice. He was also naming someone who would compel America to meet Her promises. Someone to keep America honest. And here he was, four-and-a-half years in and he’d not a lie told. What better way to celebrate than to name someone who would keep America honest?

Even if Jimmy Carter had never put someone on the Highest Court, he’d have done more to shape the federal judiciary than any other president. His expansion of the federal circuit enabled some of the greatest legal minds of their generation to find a Court on which to preside, and Carter had made sure that his nominees were diverse — in race, in gender, in background. He appointed more Black judges, more Hispanic judges, and more woman judges than all of his predecessors combined. He’d remade the federal judiciary. And now he got to choose a Supreme Court Justice. What a day. What a day.

They were all gathered — Fritz and Anne, Ham, Jack, and Jerry — as if there was room for discussion. But there wasn’t. Jimmy Carter knew who he was putting on the Court. He’d known since January 20, 1977. Just like how Bert Lance was always — in the back of his mind — his choice for Fed Chair. He’d known that when he got to the White House, he had to bring Georgia with him. There was only one person he was going to name to replace Potter Stewart. Just one person.

“We’ll get you a shortlist, Mr. President,” Wexler said. “I think we should look seriously at naming a woman. Reagan promised it on the campaign trail, and the women groups will wonder why we couldn’t meet his standard. I’ve got two I think you should consider: Shirley Hufstedler and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

Carter nodded. He liked both. Hufstedler was whip smart. A good judge. A great cabinet secretary. She’d make a helluva justice. Same for Ruth. She was a bit more liberal than he’d have liked, but nobody could deny her intelligence. She’d gone up against the men, and she’d proven she was twice the lawyer half of them could ever be. She’d make a helluva justice, too. Either of them would. Next time. He liked them both, but neither was why he was grinning.

“That’d be great, Anne. We should look at a few names. I’d like you to put Charlie Kirbo on the list.”

Ham knew it was coming — knew the boss couldn’t help himself. Bert Lance. Charlie Kirbo. That was the blessing of Jimmy. That was the curse of Jimmy.

Kirbo was supposed to be Chief of Staff, but he had more of a brain than Jordan or Powell or any of the others who’d followed Carter to Washington. He knew That Town would chew ‘em up. Make ‘em regret having run in the first place. So, Kirbo said he just couldn’t take the job. He had to make money. Jimmy understood. So instead he just called Kirbo, practically every day, and got his take on things. And Kirbo watched from Georgia, running the country with his pal Jimmy from afar. Nobody had the president’s trust like Charlie Kirbo did. It was never any question that Jimmy Carter was going to want Charlie Kirbo on the Supreme Court.

Ham didn’t grin. He smirked. And Wexler looked over at him with that look that just asked questions she didn’t want the answer to. Anne was doing great. But she wasn’t one of the Georgians. She hadn’t been there from the start. She only knew the first few layers of Jimmy — she hadn’t really seen the core yet, the part of Jimmy that said I’m here. She didn’t really see that. She saw the Jimmy most Americans saw: Kind. Compassionate. Genuine. Ready to make his difference. Eager, even, to do it. Humbled. He was a humble man, that was the part about Jimmy that people didn’t seem to get. They knew he was humble, but they didn’t realize he was also proud. It didn’t make sense, but Ham understood it. Ham knew.

Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States. You didn’t get there without a few contradictions along the way. Thomas Jefferson wrote the goddamn founding documents and preached about executive restraint and about checks and balances. And then he tripled the size of the country and forgot to ask Congress for their permission. Abraham Lincoln wanted to keep the country together so badly that his very election split it apart, and then he suspended the Constitution to bring it back together. They were men of contradictions. They were paradoxes. Jimmy Carter wasn’t any different. Simple men didn’t become president. Just ask the actor back home at Rancho del Cielo.

“We’ll put him on the list.” That was all Ham said. And Carter grinned.

When they got back to her office, Ham shut the door.

“Ham —”

“I know.”

“It’s Bert Lance all over again.”

“Anne, I know. You’ve got to call Biden.”


“He likes Biden. Biden was the first one to endorse him. He’s the Chairman now, so he’ll have an opinion. You’ve got to call Joe Biden, and you’ve got to say, ‘Joe, here’s what the president’s thinking,’ and he’ll take care of it.”

“Joe Biden?”

“I’m telling you, Anne. Joe Biden will talk him right out of it. He’ll preach about how this is the president’s chance to make history. Put a woman on the Court. You know he will. And the president will listen. You’ve just got to talk to Biden.”

Anne nodded. Alright. I’ve just got to call Biden. She thanked Ham for the advice, and when he went off to his own office down the hall, she followed him and said to her secretary, “Get me Joe Biden.”

• • •​

Joe Biden had the only grin in Washington that rivaled Jimmy Carter’s, and he entered the Oval Office wearing it. He reached out his hand and shook the president’s. “Mr. President, good to see ya. Good to see ya. How’s it going over here?”

Carter had an affinity for the young senator. Biden was the first Senator to endorse Carter, and he came over in the early days of 1978 to give him the report: Ted Kennedy was running in the primary, Biden told him. That was that. Carter should watch his left. Jimmy Carter appreciated it — the friendship, the loyalty. He trusted Biden’s judgment, and he was glad it was Biden, not Kennedy, in charge of the Judiciary Committee as he tried to get his first nominee on the Supreme Court.

“Senator, have a seat,” Carter said, motioning to one of the couches in the Oval Office. Jordan and Wexler were there, too.

“So, Stewart?” Biden asked. One might have expected some small talk, or for the president to get them down to business, but Joe Biden was among friends. He didn’t need to belabor the point — he wanted to hear what the president was thinking.

“That’s right,” Carter said. “I want your opinion on something. How would you feel if I nominated my friend Charlie Kirbo?”

“Love it!” Biden said. Wexler glanced at Jordan. What was going on? Biden was supposed to talk him out of it. Jordan just shrugged. It’s not like he could have known. “Ford got his guy. Kennedy got his guys. Ike got his guys. You should get your guy — whoever you think, Mr. President, we’ll get him through.”

There was that grin. Well, now there were two of them. “Thank you, Joe —”

Biden wasn’t done. He had to make it real — had to tell the president what he meant, had to show him how serious he was. “Mr. President, we’ll get Charlie Kirbo on the Court. My word as a Biden.” For Joe, there was nothing more serious than that.

“I appreciate it,” the president said.

“How’s Rosie?” Biden asked. He knew the president’s nickname for her. They were friends. And so Carter told him, and he asked about Jill and Beau and Hunter. And the newborn. Now, there was Ashley.

“How’s Ashley?” Carter asked. “Did you bring me pictures?”

And it was, for them, as if the conversation hadn’t started about a Supreme Court seat. There was no getting it back. It was going to be Charlie Kirbo. And Jordan looked at Wexler, and Wexler looked back at Jordan. Fuck.

June 29, 1981
The White House — Washington, DC

“Mr. President, this should be brief,” William Foege, CDC Director, began the meeting. “We wanted to get you up to speed on an emerging issue that we’re keeping an eye on.”

In reality, Jack Watson had requested the meeting. He’d read an article in the Los Angeles Times about infections among gay men. The article had been based on a CDC report, and it had quickly gained some attention for similar diseases linked to gay men in New York. Watson felt that the issue needed to be on the president’s radar.

“On June 5th, the CDC published an article on pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, otherwise known as PCP. The article focused on Los Angeles, where five young and previously healthy gay men developed the infection. What’s particularly bizarre about these men is that it seems their entire immune systems are not working. They have a host of other unusual infections as well. Unfortunately, two of the men have already died.”

“Their immune systems stopped working?”

“That’s right, Mr. President.”

“Because of PCP? It shut down their immune systems?”

“Not exactly. Rather, PCP is an extremely rare disease — limited to those who are severely immunosuppressed. It is very odd that five otherwise healthy young men would have been susceptible to it given there was no history of immunodeficiency.”

“I understand.”

Patricia Roberts Harris, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, asked about a report the CDC had obtained about a closer of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, among gay men in New York and California.

“That’s right, Madam Secretary. When we published our report about PCP, a New York dermatologist called us and reported that he was seeing a number of patients who had Kaposi’s Sarcoma, which is a rare and aggressive cancer that produces spots on the skin.”

“And this is a rare cancer?” Watson asked.

“Yes, sir. Very rare. Once again, it’s the kind of disease you expect to see in those who are severely immunocompromised, not those who are otherwise healthy.”

“And these men in New York with KS — they’re homosexuals?”


The room sat in the silence. It was odd indeed. “Mr. President, the reality is we don’t know what we don’t know here, but it’s clear that something is happening within the homosexual community. We have launched a task force to look into KS and other opportunistic infections in hopes of identifying the risk factors and establishing a definition that we can use for whatever it is that is compromising the immune systems of these men. From there, we hope to set up a national surveillance of new cases so that we can study them quickly and begin to understand treatment.”

“Dr. Foege, please keep the Secretary and Jack in the loop on this. Whatever you need in terms of resources, consider them yours. Jack, I want regular updates on the CDC’s progress in our weekly meetings.”

Everyone nodded as the president rose. Meeting adjourned. [2]

July 2, 1981
The White House — Washington, DC

It was about 10 o’clock in the morning and not yet 80 degrees when the members of the press and invited guests stood for the President of the United States. They were outside in the Rose Garden for the announcement of a new Supreme Court Justice. In the days leading up to the announcement, many had wrongly predicted that Carter would name a woman — pick up the gauntlet Reagan had thrown down during the campaign. Carter never saw it that way. Reagan had been desperate. He had to do that. Of course, the 39th president shared his challenger’s sentiment. His appointments to the Judiciary demonstrated a clear commitment to both judicial integrity and to diversity, but Carter’s election marked the beginning of a new era in American politics: The Gender Gap. He had women’s support. They already trusted him. He was going with Kirbo.

“Who is that?” a reporter asked a colleague. Not any DC Circuit Court judge or 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals judge he recognized. Certainly not Hofstedler or Ginsburg like some of them had been betting on.

“That’s Charlie Kirbo. The president’s lawyer.”

Wexler had tried again after the Biden meeting. She laid it all out for Carter — the hearings might get rocky, the women’s groups would be upset — but Carter didn’t want to hear any of it. He was the president. This was his prerogative. And besides, Joe Biden — the Chairman — said it would be fine. Kirbo was a good friend and the best damn lawyer Carter knew. Why wouldn’t Carter put him on the Supreme Court?

Charlie Kirbo might have been the closest person Jimmy Carter had to a best friend. It started during Carter’s first race for State Senate. Carter lost that race by just enough, or so it seemed. The decisive county, Quitman County, reported 496 votes, only 136 of which were for Carter. But then, Carter learned only 333 people signed in to voted in Quitman County. Someone was stealing this election, and it had to go to court, and that meant Jimmy Carter needed a lawyer. Everyone told him there was only one guy to call: Kirbo.

During those days of contesting the election, it was just Jimmy and Charlie in the car, driving back-and-forth to Georgetown, speaking with voters and election officials and asking them to sign affidavits about the peculiarities of the election. Eventually, their hard work paid off and the election got brought to a judge who ordered them to retrieve the ballot box (which was stored safely under the bed of Joe Hurst’s daughter — Joe Hurst was the state representative backing Carter’s opponent in that race). And so, they opened the box, and Charlie Kirbo couldn’t believe what he saw: There they were — the crooked ballots. Neatly folded and placed on top. Nobody had even tried to shake it up, make it look like people had actually placed their ballots through the slit. Nope. Nobody had bothered to contest the stolen elections in years past. But Jimmy and Charlie did, and Jimmy Carter was ruled the Democratic nominee for State Senate, and then he went on to win the general election. And then he became governor. And now he was president. And he owed it all to Charlie Kirbo. [3]

Sun shining down, Carter squinted through to look at the press in front of him. “Good afternoon, everyone, thank you for coming to this very important announcement.

“When I first ran for this office back in 1976, I said it was my responsibility to reestablish the confidence of the American people in their government. That includes our judicial system. Today, I take a step in that direction.

“I am thankful to Justice Potter Stewart for his service to the American people. In his place, I will nominate Charles Kirbo of Georgia, a man of profound personal integrity and legal expertise.

“Mr. Kirbo may not be known to most Americans now, but when they learn about him, they will be nothing short of impressed. Most notably, Charlie Kirbo spent his time as a lawyer in Georgia fighting for fair elections at a time when stuffing a ballot box was so common that no one so much as feigned outrage.”

Carter went on to describe Kirbo’s resume in more detail before adding, “It is my expectation that with all due haste the United States Senate will vote to confirm this man of deep personal integrity, and I predict it will do so with broad and bipartisan support.”

Then, he turned it over to Kirbo, who stated he was humbled by the nomination and eager to meet with Senators to address any concerns they may have.

The press corps was dazed, but they found it in themselves to shout questions as Carter and Kirbo walked back to the Oval Office. Wasn’t this just rewarding a personal friend with a government job? Why wasn’t a woman selected? Carter, his hand on Kirbo’s back, joked with his friend as they walked away.

July 8, 1981
Russell Senate Office Building — Washington, DC

Liz Holtzman deserved to be there. She knew that. She had no hesitations, no hang-ups about being a woman in the world’s most exclusive club. She was one of two ladies there. The other, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, was a moderate Republican from Kansas. She was the only Democratic woman, and she was the only woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some of the men were outraged by the appointment, but Joe Biden had lobbied Bob Byrd. He wanted her there, because when she won, Liz Holtzman’s first calls were to Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden. She called them on her Election Night to tell them she wanted to be there. She wouldn’t take no for an answer, she’d told them. They listened.

Her career really began when she knocked off Emanuel Celler in a Democratic primary back home in New York for the U.S. House of Representatives. Celler had been there fifty years. Holtzman was 31 years old. He was the Dean of the House. The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Holtzman was unafraid, and she won. And she joined the House Judiciary Committee, where she gradually became a household name.

First it was the Cambodian bombing campaign in ’73. She’d filed a legal challenge, voted against the Case-Church amendment to reign Nixon in. She didn’t care. It didn’t go far enough, and it didn’t solve the problem quick enough. She was elected for a reason, and she wasn’t going to let Washington change her. She was an outsider who wanted a more honest government and a more responsive government — not all that unlike a certain peanut farmer from Georgia who landed himself in the Oval Office four years later.

She endeared herself to the Party’s left flank with that protest of Nixon’s conduct in the war, and that was before Watergate. In 1974, Liz Holtzman found herself at the center of the nation’s most infamous political scandal. She was tough in those hearings, grilling members of Nixon’s team. Many Americans tuned in and watched the whole thing. They remembered Barbara Jordan’s eloquent opening statement. It brought many of them to tears. Many also remembered Liz Holtzman, and they remembered how she didn’t let anyone get away without an answer — certainly not Gerald Ford.

When Jerry pardoned Richard Nixon to spare the country its long national nightmare, Holtzman thought it was time to go back to bed. If the country woke up in a sweat — well, maybe it deserved it. The nation had to purge itself of the Nixon stench. That meant sending him to jail if we had to. Presidents weren’t above the law. So, she asked Gerald Ford right there in front of the cameras: Was the pardon part of a quid pro quo agreement? Ford said no. Holtzman wasn’t sure she believed him.

So, by the time she ran for the Senate in 1980, Holtzman was sure she would win. She knew it deep in her bones. She’d held the Nixon and Ford administrations accountable. She extended the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment. She was young and fierce, and she worked harder than half of the men she served with — combined. She would become a United States Senator, because she wasn’t going to let anyone outwork her.

She beat back the Queens District Attorney and John Lindsay, the former New York City Mayor, and Bess Myerson, who was Miss America in 1945 and a New York City commissioner to win the primary. She wasn’t a candidate for the bosses — she was a candidate for the people. She said it over and over again. Hugh Carey, the Governor, was out campaigning for Bess Myerson — introducing her to voters and helping her raise money. Holtzman loved it. As far as she was concerned, that was great. It only proved her point: Politicians had their candidate in the primary, and the people had theirs. And the people won. Liz Holtzman won that four-way primary by nearly 10-points.

In the general election, things got trickier. Moderate Democrats wanted to help Jack Javits get six more years. He’d just been tossed out by Al D’Amato, a strange conservative man who seemed emblematic of the Reagan wing of the Party. New Yorkers knew Javits, and they liked him, but enough of those Democrats decided not to split their ticket. They voted for Jimmy. And then they voted for Liz. And she won that three-way race, even if it was with less than 50% of the vote, and she harbored no reservations about taking a seat in the Senate. She’d earned it — outworked, outfought.

That’s how Liz Holtzman saw the world: You earned your spot. Like she had in the House. Like she had in the Senate. Like she had on the Senate Judiciary Committee. So she didn’t like that a small town lawyer with no judicial experience was getting tapped to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. And she didn’t really care what the president wanted. Her job was to advise and consent. The Constitution said so. There was no reason to think she had to go along with the president’s choice if she didn’t think he was qualified for the Court. But what about the fact you and President Carter are of the same party? She could hear the question already. Didn’t matter. Celler was in my party. Myerson was in my party. Carey was in my party. Didn’t matter then. Didn’t matter now.

The New Yorker reporter sat across from her and tried to read between the lines of what she was saying. It was part of a profile on the new woman senator, and he’d just been lucky enough to have their meeting set for a few days after Jimmy Carter made his announcement for a Supreme Court pick. What did Liz Holtzman think?

“I’m not sure the extent of his experience,” she began, “but I look forward to reviewing his record and meeting with him to discuss his jurisprudential philosophy.”

What did that first part mean?

“Do you think he’s qualified to sit on the Supreme Court? Some have voiced concerns about that — that he’s another Abe Fortas.”

“Abe Fortas had argued several major cases before the Court, and by the time he was nominated for Chief Justice, he’d been on the Court for three years.”

“So you don’t think the comparison is fair to Mr. Fortas?”

She wasn’t going to mince her words, she decided. Why start now? “At the moment, I am not convinced that Charlie Kirbo is qualified to sit on the United States Supreme Court. That’s why I intend to meet with him and ask him about his background, and I look forward to the hearings on his nomination, where I will again ask him questions about his judicial philosophy and his experience as a litigator.”

“So you haven’t made up your mind on his nomination?”

“No, I have not. I may very well oppose him.”

That’s news, the journalist thought. That’s a story!

• • •​

Over at the White House, Anne Wexler, tasked with ensuring Kirbo’s confirmation, and the rest of the staff were trying to make sense over a press release Holtzman had put out that morning. There was no line about supporting the nominee, but only a commitment to be “engaged in the process,” and the headline — maybe she was new? Maybe she hadn’t figured it out yet? Maybe her press guy was fresh off the block? The headline read: “Senator Elizabeth Holtzman Awaits Nominee’s Qualifications.”

“She’s just raising Hell,” Jordan said, dismissing it. “She’s a freshman Senator. She’s going to fall in line. They have to. Biden’s on board.”

Wexler saw it, heard it, smelled it — the same righteous indignation that had hobbled the Carter boys’ first term. They were in charge. Congress had to follow along. Anne Wexler knew enough to know Liz Holtzman didn’t follow anybody. Not even Joe Biden, who helped put her on the Judiciary Committee.

“I think I’m going to go over there and talk to her,” Wexler offered. She really didn’t mind. This is my job, her eyes pleaded with the boys in the room.

“I really don’t think that’s necessary, Anne, but you should do what you think you need to do.”

She was going to the Hill.

July 11, 1981
The White House — Washington, DC

“Mr. President, before we go I want to raise a potential problem we’re going to have with the Kirbo nomination.”

Charlie? Who has a problem with Charlie? “Go ahead,” the president said.

“I went to the Hill yesterday to talk to Senator Holtzman, and I’m not sure she’s going to be an easy vote.”

Carter nodded. Thought he understood. “I’m sure she’s doing what she has to do, but you can let her know that my next nominee will be a woman. I mean that.”

“No, Mr. President, I’m not sure it’s that. She seems to have real doubts about Kirbo’s qualifications to sit on the Court. These are some of the things we raised before the nomination.”

“She’s one vote. Have we heard from anyone else?”

“Well, no, sir, but —”

“Anne, she’s one vote. I don’t expect Charlie to get 100 votes, but I’ve talked to Biden, and he assured me Kirbo would get a fair shake at the hearings, and after that — well, nobody has to vote for him. She’s one vote.”

“But she’s on the Judiciary Committee. She’s going to be in the hearings. And if she feels comfortable speaking out, who’s to say more Republicans won’t tack on to her messaging?”

The president heard Wexler, but he didn’t understand why it would be an issue. Every president named Supreme Court nominees. Some of them had embarrassing things in their past, and they didn’t get through, but Charlie wasn’t like that. He was honest. He was smart. And he was Carter’s friend. And Carter got to pick who sat on the Supreme Court. These things weren’t political — not like Anne was saying.

“Jordan, keep an eye on it,” the president answered, standing up.

Jordan? She was angry. Ham Jordan is the least liked person we’ve got by folks on the Hill. Why Jordan? It couldn’t be like this.

“Mr. President, with all due respect to Ham —”

“It shouldn’t be me, Mr. President. We’ll all keep an eye on this, but I shouldn’t be running point on the Hill for this.”

“Alright,” the president shrugged. “Anne, you — or whoever you want — can follow this. Let me know if there’s an issue, but Charlie’ll be fine.”

July 18, 1981
The White House — Washington, DC

On July 18, 1981, the president stepped up to a podium in the press briefing room to take a round of questions. In particular, Carter hoped to demonstrate support for the Kirbo nomination. Whispers had been brewing that his nomination may be imperiled. Carter knew that Liz Holtzman was making some waves. He figured he could take a few questions, steer the reporters back towards the overwhelming support for Kirbo’s nomination, and move on.

They had a few back-and-forths about the nomination. Carter reminded the reporters in the room that he had spoken with Chairman Biden and that the nomination was on “solid footing.” He also told the anecdote about Kirbo helping expose the bosses and their attempt to rig his first election for the State Senate. The president was easy going and the banter with the press was light.

The questions were winding down when the New York Times reporter raised his hand for a second question. Carter made a joke about going back for seconds and then called on him.

“Mr. President, I wanted to ask you about some of the spending amendments being discussed on the Hill. In particular, some previous cuts to public health research have been shifted around to restore that funding. Any reason why?”

Powell hadn’t prepped Carter for the question. He hadn’t anticipated they’d ask him much besides the latest Kirbo updates, and some of the other news of the day would likely have gotten mentioned ahead of some routine Congressional debates. It was no issue, though. Carter was well attuned to the happenings on the Hill, especially with regards to his budget.

“Sure. I had a briefing a little while ago about pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, otherwise known as PCP, and the impact it was having on homosexuals, and I spoke with members of the CDC and they encouraged me to restore some of that funding so that we can learn more about what’s happening.”

“A gay cancer?” It was another reporter now, asking the question with a bit of an edge — and a chuckle.

“Oh, I don’t think it’s funny. It sounds pretty concerning. I hope the CDC gets to the bottom of it. Any other questions?”

Hearing none, the president folded his binder and walked out of the room. Powell wasn’t sure what was about to happen and called the Times reporter back to his office to feel him out and see if any clean-up was needed.

The next day, in a front-page story about Kirbo’s nomination, there was a paragraph at the end that mentioned the president’s comments about what the world would come to know as AIDS. In San Francisco, his answer was the headline — right on the front page of the Chronicle: CARTER WANTS RESOURCES DIRECTED TO STUDY GAY MEN’S PNEUMONIA.

The president’s inadvertent answer soon became a national story. Pat Robertson lead a forceful rebuke of the president’s statement during The 700 Club and urged Christians to write their legislators to not spend money on research for a disease focused in the gay community. Jerry Falwell started talking about it in his Sunday sermons. So did other Evangelical preachers. Carter had set off a firestorm.

He also complicated the politics in California, where a competitive Senate election was brewing. Jerry Brown had announced he wasn’t going to run for the seat and a number of prominent Democrats were jockeying for a chance to be the next Senator from California. Among them was San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, who was perhaps more aware of the disease than any other elected official in the United States. At the same time, she was concerned about what would happen to her statewide chances if she was seen as being too close to her city’s gay community.

Henry Waxman, a Los Angeles Congressman, had already been leading the fight on the issue of public health funding in Congress. He had opposed Carter’s initial cuts and lobbied the Carter White House hard to get funds restored. He was leading those amendments in the House — now with White House support. Waxman’s’ district was actually home to the first deaths from the disease. He represented West Hollywood, known as the “gay ghetto” of the city. Waxman was also planning to seek the seat in the U.S. Senate, and he was not at all interested in walking back his stance on public health funding, especially not as it related to the state’s gay community.

In Washington, the debate over Waxman’s public health amendments — a seemingly innocuous series of changes to dull legislative text — took on new life. The Evangelicals were calling their members of Congress and demanding that they cut public health funding. That’s not quite how they were wording it, though. They were asking their members of Congress to vote against the amendment that would “fund homosexuality.” Moderate Republicans were perplexed by the outrage. Even some conservatives thought the whole thing had gotten a bit bizarre. Others felt it was time to jump ahead of the curve. Freshman Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana, in his maiden speech on the floor of the Senate, urged his colleagues to reject an “endorsement of the homosexual lifestyle.”

Eventually, cooler heads prevailed. Carter met privately with Bob Dole, the Senate Republican Leader, and asked him where he was on the whole thing. Dole had no problem with letting the amendments get through (though his own presidential aspirations meant he would be personally unable to support them). Next, Carter deputized Stu Eizenstat to touch base with the chief Republican appropriators in the House. Where were they on the whole thing? Naturally, they were opposed to spending the money, but after Carter’s team touched base with Tip O’Neill, they were able to make sure there were enough Democratic votes to overcome some Republican opposition.

Throughout the fight, O’Neill deputized one of his favorite members, Geraldine Ferraro, to help with the vote counting. An Italian-American Catholic, Ferraro was a particularly useful surrogate in support of the amendments. She came from a comparatively conservative area of New York City, and her own personal religious beliefs suggested she was a bit more tempered on social issues than a West Coast liberal like Waxman. It all worked. Ferraro and O’Neill got Carter and Waxman the votes in the House. Dole encouraged his more reasonable members to go along with the amendments, and they prevented any serious issues from arising in the Senate.

Carter got his wish, and his public health funding, and at the CDC, research dollars were spent towards understanding what the Chronicle was still calling “gay men’s pneumonia.”

July 20, 1981
Dirksen Senate Office Building — Washington, DC

When Orrin Hatch thought about it, he really couldn’t understand how it had all ended up the way it did. Back in ’76, Hatch was running against Frank Moss, an entrenched incumbent everyone told him was too popular to beat. He started his campaign thinking everyone else might be right. But then he’d won, and he thought his election was a harbinger of things to come.

Hatch was one of the earliest victories of the New Right. He’d campaigned, in the same year Jimmy Carter took the White House, using the message Jimmy Carter did: He was an outsider. His opponent was an insider. Voters couldn’t trust insiders anymore, Hatch argued. Times had changed, didn’t they know? And while some Republicans toed the lines of the conservatives (back then being called a ‘Bircher’ actually meant something to a general electorate), Orrin Hatch figured he had one way to win: Run to the Right. He met with Reagan’s pollster, Dick Wirthlin, and Wirthlin confirmed his suspicions: The state was trending that way. Privately, Wirthlin thought Hatch might be jumping the gun a bit, but hey — they had money to throw around. So they did.

Ronald Reagan endorsed Orrin Hatch in that election, and Hatch told everyone he could. All the names that would conspire to get Reagan to the White House had been there for Hatch. Richard Viguerie. Paul Weyrich. It didn’t take long for Hatch to put Moss on the run. Suddenly a favorite of the Senate’s liberals was doing all he could to remind voters he wasn’t that far left after all. That’s when Hatch knew he could get him.

Hatch was about as conservative as they came. He ran on passing an anti-pornography law. He promised voters he’d protect their hard-earned tax dollars. He was preaching from the same book Goldwater passed down to Reagan, and then he won. He knocked Frank Moss out of the Senate. And so then he added some notes in the marginalia — some tricks for the Gipper and the ones who would come in ’78 and ’80 — and he handed the playbook right back to them. Hatch had won. So why hadn’t Reagan? [4]

It grated on Hatch, though it didn’t much matter now. On Election Night 1980, Hatch saw it all flashing before his eyes: The term that was not meant to be. The tax cuts. The collapse of the Soviet Union — Reagan would’ve shown ‘em. Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Associate Justice Robert Bork. No more Roe. No more Griswold. A Solid South — for the Republicans. A 16-year-lock on the White House. It had all been right there. But then it was dashed.

That Orrin Hatch and Elizabeth Holtzman had very different visions for what America’s future should look like did not stop the Utahn from noticing when his colleague commented on the nomination of Charlie Kirbo to the Supreme Court.

Hatch wasn’t pleased that Potter Stewart, appointed by Eisenhower, had decided to retire while a Democrat was in the White House. But he’d done it, and the way Hatch saw it — the way nearly all of them saw it — the president got to name his choice. Except Holtzman. Hatch didn’t know what her motivation was. Like most, he assumed she just wanted Carter to appoint a woman to the Bench. No matter, she’d raised doubts about Charlie Kirbo, whom Hatch was sure was a fine man and would make a passable justice on the Supreme Court. But Hatch cared less about the Court than he did about delivering a blow to the Carter administration.

It seemed Carter was getting it all together now — more than he’d done four years ago. He and Kennedy were moving healthcare right along — soon some big socialized medicine bill might be on the president’s desk. The horror. And what about their energy bill? Carter was doing everything he could to put the oilman out of business. That didn’t sit well with Hatch either. And this homosexual pneumonia Hatch had been hearing about. Carter went out and tried to make it seem like it wasn’t some plight afflicting only the homosexuals? Tried to divorce it from sexuality? Hatch didn’t know much about the science, but he read the paper enough to know where these deaths were coming from: San Francisco. That was all Hatch needed to know.

Hatch was worried the White House was getting away with too much. A liberal paradise — that’s what Carter was building. Someone had to throw the White House off their stride. And Hatch thought Liz Holtzman was just a good an impetus as any.

So there he was, nine o’clock at night, meeting with his staffers to review his remarks for the Senate floor the next morning.

“It’s about qualifications,” Hatch kept saying. “What has the guy done? Nothing.” Hatch answered his own question — because the answer was so obvious. “I don’t want to make this about politics. I don’t want a debate about abortion, birth control, privacy — none of it. This is about if Charlie Kirbo can do the job.”

His communications director kept writing it all down. Qualifications. Fitness. He was scribbling.

Hatch snatched the legal pad from the man’s lap and started pacing the room, reading it aloud until it sounded right. “We were not asked for our advice, but we have since been asked to consent to a nomination that lacks the experience Senators have come to expect.” That was good.

He cut a part about Nixon’s failed nominees. He didn’t want this to seem like payback. It had nothing to do with politics, that’s what Hatch believed. Not about politics at all. Just about having a qualified justice. That’s it. Hatch wanted to underscore that point. He kept pacing the room. How do I do it? He tapped a pen against his lips until it came to him. He could name some potential nominees. Afterwards, though, in the interviews. There was Ginsburg. She was sharp enough to be on the Court. She wasn’t the president’s buddy from back home, she was a real jurist. She was the kind of nominee Carter should name. [5]

The next morning, Hatch took to the Senate floor and made his case.

“Mister President, I rise this morning to voice my concerns about the nomination of Charles Kirbo to the United States Supreme Court.

“This will be my first time evaluating a potential justice for the Court, and I am disappointed that the President of the United States has sent us someone who lacks the kinds of qualifications I had expected to review when making my decision.

“There will be no boxes filled with judicial opinions. For Charlie Kirbo is not an appellate or district judge.

“There will not be scholarly articles in peer-reviewed publications for us to read, underline, and ask Mister Kirbo about, because Charlie Kirbo has not served as a legal academic.

“Instead, it seems, we are being asked to evaluate Charlie Kirbo on the only qualification it seems he has for the Court: He is the president’s friend. If I also believed that was all it took to sit on the Highest Court in our land, I, too, would intend to vote for Mister Kirbo. But I see things differently, Mister President, and so I await the ruling of the American Bar Association, and I await the confirmation hearings.

“But allow me to be perfectly clear: I expect Mister Kirbo to present some justification for his appointment when he appears before the Judiciary Committee. It must be something other than the fact he helped the president win an election some eighteen years ago.”

Hatch went on a bit longer — included some lines about the history of the body, the importance of the Court, the reason the Founders included those three words “advise and consent” — and then he yielded back the balance of his time, went down to the Capitol Rotunda, and did an interview for that new network everyone was watching: CNN.

August 8, 1981
The White House — Washington, DC

It was raining that day, Carter later remembered. He remembered incorrectly. There was no rain on September 21, 1977. Carter could be forgiven the mistake, though — it was a dreary day in his administration. Indeed, as he would pen in his diary, it was “probably one of the worst days I’ve ever spent.” [6]

Washington was abuzz that day. The president was in the midst of the negotiations over the Panama Canal Treaties, and everyone in the White House was doing what they could to ensure their final passage. But another cloud loomed over the administration: Bert Lance.

He was another dear friend from Georgia. Unlike Charlie Kirbo, who turned down Carter’s initial ask to serve as Chief of Staff, Lance was eager to join Carter in Washington. He loved the idea. And he became the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Quickly, his tenure became embroiled in scandal. William Safire wrote an article alleging that he’d mismanaged Calhoun First National Bank in Georgia, and that he’d improperly taken loans. Safrie even suggested that Lance might have traded on his relationship with the president.

In most administrations, the scandal would likely have gone nowhere, for it wasn’t much of a story to begin with (as Safire would later concede himself). But Jimmy Carter had rode into town on the promise of cleaning up government after Watergate. Now it seemed his own guys were corrupt. It was the same kind of cronyism that made Richard Nixon famous. Years later, journalists and historians would opine about the benign nature of the “Lance Affair” and how it had all been exaggerated by a gaggle of reporters who thought they were the next Woodward, the next Bernstein.

No matter. On that perfectly sunny September day, Bert Lance submitted his resignation to Jimmy Carter. Looking back on it now, Carter could still feel the sharp pain in his stomach. Here was a good man, one of his dearest friends, consumed by the Washington frenzy. This Town… Carter hated it. But even more than the pain he felt from seeing Lance hand over the envelope containing his resignation, Carter felt the words LaBelle Lance had spewed in his distraction.

Lance’s wife did not hold back with Carter. He’d betrayed their trust. He’d destroyed her husband. “I want to tell you one thing: you can go with the rest of the jackals, and I hope you’ll be happy.” The words still stung when Carter heard them back in his mind.

That was why, now, he was determined not to let it happen again.

In the last few weeks, the sentiment was turning against Charlie Kirbo. The American Bar Association divided in their ruling on Kirbo’s ability to do the job. He’d squeaked by with a “Qualified” rating, but a significant number of the panel had voted for “Not Qualified,” and the ABA noted that in their statement. Now, it wasn’t just Hatch — some right-wing Republican. It was the American Bar Association. Some of them were wondering if Charlie Kirbo could do the job.

Jimmy Carter didn’t understand. He knew Charlie Kirbo better than any of them, and he knew he could do the job. And Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States. And the President of the United States got to pick who was on the U.S. Supreme Court. It has to be Kirbo, Carter thought to himself. It has to be. I can’t let him down.

And that was Jimmy Carter. Here he was, the president, nominating someone — a friend — to the Supreme Court, and he was worried about letting his friend down. Worried that a fight for the nomination might be some blight on his friend’s record — not the other way around. No matter what the Kirbo nomination might say about Carter, his administration, his judgment. Carter didn’t give a damn about any of that. He wouldn’t let this town do it to Charlie.

But just the day before, Joe Biden had come into the Oval Office, head down, slump in his shoulders, and he couldn’t even look the president in the eye. He just sort of whispered: “Uhh, Mister President, I don’t know how to tell ya this, but I don’t know, Mister President. The votes…” Biden didn’t want to say it. Couldn’t Carter spare him the pain of admitting it? He’d let the president down. He was having trouble with the votes. “…Thurmond. Hatch. The Republicans — they’re sayin’ … and there’s Liz. Holtzman, I mean. She’s — Well, Mister President, I just don’t know. We’ll do the hearings, if you want. And I’ll let ‘em know what I think…”

The last person Jimmy Carter blamed was Joe Biden. If anything, the ordeal had brought them closer together. Biden had called every member of the Judiciary Committee two or three times. He’d brought Holtzman out to dinner — asked her every which way why she was being so hesitant about Kirbo. He met with Kirbo on the Hill, and he told him everything that Holtzman was worried about. He even came by the White House and sat in on the prep meetings with Kirbo before he went around and met with the other senators. Joe Biden had done everything he could to help out Charlie Kirbo.

“Mister President,” he continued. “I just don’t know what to say. I sat right there, and I gave you my word —”

Carter put his hand on Biden’s shoulder. “Joe, you did everything you could. Now, tell me: Could the hearings change this? Could we get the votes together?”

Joe shrugged. “It’ll be tough, Mister President, I won’t lie to ya. They’re going to hit him with everything they’ve got, and I’m not sure where Liz will be when it’s all over…”

Carter nodded. He’d heard what he needed to hear; he just wasn’t ready to admit it.

Forty-seven months had passed since Bert Lance’s resignation when Charlie Kirbo walked in — a thin envelope with a tri-folded letter of resignation in his pocket.

Carter forced a smile, and he sat down with Kirbo on the couches in his office. “I met with Biden yesterday. He’s not sure where Holtzman is going to land, but you said your meeting with her went well. I think you’ll sway ‘em in the hearing. I’m not worried.”

“Mr. President,” Kirbo began.

Carter knew it was coming, so he decided to talk right past it. “And I don’t think every Republican’ll be a no. It sets a terrible precedent, Charlie. They’ll get that once they hear from you.”

“Mr. President…”

“So I think we’ve just got to focus on the hearings. That’ll be the most important part, but that’s your chance to sway public opinion, too, and once the American people see —”


Carter stopped and looked back at Kirbo. He knew.

“Mr. President, I’m sorry… Mr. President, I have here —” He reached to grab the envelope from his jacket. “— a letter withdrawing my nomination.”

Immediately, Carter resisted. “Charlie, I’m not accepting that. I’m not letting them do this again.”

“It’s not like with Bert,” he assured him. “I don’t want it anymore. It means the world to me, Mr. President, that you nominated me, but I just don’t want it anymore. Back when you got elected, and you asked me to be Chief of Staff, I knew Washington wasn’t for me. I’m not comfortable here. But a lifetime appointment — well, it got to my head. But all of this — it just shows me. I don’t want it. It’s not for me. I want to go home.”

This town. He could hear LaBelle’s words ringing in his ears. You can go with the rest of the jackals. The rest of the jackals. The jackals.

Carter had tears in his eyes as he brought Kirbo in for an embrace. This town…

When Charlie left, the president called Jody Powell and told him to draft a statement. He dragged his lips into a frown. It was over.

• • •​

In the days after Kirbo’s withdrawal, Anne Wexler drew up a list of five possible nominees to the United States Supreme Court. Carter interviewed three of them: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Shirley Hufstedler, and Phyllis Kravitch. All three were eminently qualified. All three were likely to gain bipartisan support. His initial instinct had been to name Kravitch, but after the Kirbo debacle, Carter was worried about picking another Georgian and being accused of a home state bias that might imperil Kravitch’s nomination. He was eager to get it all over with. Wexler believed that Hufstedler was the easiest to confirm as she had an impressive resume. She also noted that Ginsburg, while a respected jurist who Carter had already elevated once, was attached to the legal feminist movement, which may prove an unneeded complication in the confirmation fight, especially with the Equal Rights Amendment hurdling towards its death.

Anne had decided to keep one name off the list: former Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Anne liked her a great deal and thought she’d make an excellent justice, but one of Washington’s worst-kept secrets was that Jordan had a live-in woman partner. Any nomination of Jordan was sure to end up in a conversation about her sexuality — especially as Carter pushed for more research dollars to get to the bottom of this gay cancer.

The president decided to name Hufstedler, with whom he had the most personal relationship. She was currently serving in his cabinet, though she’d previously been a federal judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for eleven years.

Carter announced Hufstedler’s nomination from the press room, and he refused to answer questions about Charlie Kirbo’s withdrawal. Liz Holtzman was among the first to praise Judge Hulfstedler, and the nation watched as Holtzman, the first woman on the Judiciary Committee, asked questions of Shirley Hufstedler, who would become the first woman Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. She was confirmed in November by a 97-0 vote. Even Orrin Hatch voted for her confirmation.

Hufstedler’s ascension to the Court meant that Carter needed a new Secretary of Education. He interviewed several candidates but ultimately named Bob Martinez, the Mayor of Tampa, Florida, who had been the director of a teachers’ union during the Florida teachers’ strike of 1968. It was a bone to organized labor — one Carter had to make as he tried to woo them his way during the healthcare fight — but Carter did not see Martinez as inherently ideological. He had since been elected Mayor of Tampa, taking office in 1979, and was seen as a rising star in Florida politics. Now, he moved to Washington, DC.


[1] May or may not have written this scene after watching Primary Colors.

[2] I used this website and And the Band Played On for my research on AIDS ITTL.

[3] His Very Best, 118

[4] My summarization of Hatch’s Senate race is based on the chapter about it in Reaganland, 30-48

[5] Hatch actually recommended that Bill Clinton choose Ginsburg for the Court.

[6] White House Diary, 102.
The fact that Jimmy Carter didn't get a nominee IOTL is one of the worst examples of bad luck in American history.
For a second there, I thought you were gonna surprise us and get RBG onto the Supremes 12 years early! Wouldn't have been a bad idea and would have been very interesting. Is Thurgood Marshall gonna consider retirement as well?
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There's something just very real with Carter nominating his friend and not understanding how everyone else does not yet understand what an upstanding guy he is.

Also of course for a lot of reasons the government showing an interest in HIV/AIDs could have dramatic affects on the community. And save many lives. Happy to see it.
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He could name some potential nominees. Afterwards, though, in the interviews. There was Ginsburg. She was sharp enough to be on the Court. She wasn’t the president’s buddy from back home, she was a real jurist. She was the kind of nominee Carter should name. [5]​
Huh, I were more surprised by the fact that RBG could be by this point have enough experience to be considered by Hatch this early..., but it just show how problematic is Kirbo's nomination.
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Very nice chapter.

Sad to see Carter not get his original pick but at least he gets to avoid the humiliation of a rejection by the Senate ( which would significantly hurt his parties chances in 82 and maybe even 84 I suppose. ). Hufstedler is a good choice and hopefully Ginsburg gets her chance as well within Carters or maybe even Mondales term.

Good to see the relationship between Biden and Carter with regards to the court and how Bidens loyalty clouds his judgment.

Also good to see Holtzman strike it out. She would've been one of the best Senators had she won. Makes me consider a Mondale-Holtzman ticket in 1984.

Carter would most def handle AIDS better than Reagan did tbh the man has much more compassion , tolerance and humanity then Reagan did. He also isn't tied down by the religious/evangelical right.
Another really well written chapter. There's such a excellent balance of intentions here and, perhaps with the exception of Hatch, all of them seem so personal as to almost transcend politics. Carter's desire to elevate the people around him, who he views as good and honest, looks almost indistinguishable from cronyism and yet it's conveyed so clearly why he doesn't see it. Truly great stuff.
Superb as usual.

I wonder how the NY Governors race is shaping out. I don't think Cuomo will win given the rough national environment of '82 (assuming he can still beat Ed Koch).
Huh, I were more surprised by the fact that RBG could be by this point have enough experience to be considered by Hatch this early..., but it just show how problematic is Kirbo's nomination.
You might be right. She was only just appointed to the DC Circuit the previous year both IRL and ITTL. Then again, KBJ was on the DC Circuit for a year before being appointed to SCOTUS.
I'm trying to remember the ins-and-outs of Carter's healthcare proposal (CarterCare) but isn't it essentially the Affordable Care Act with hospital cost cap and cheap/free healthcare to women with children? Or is it more expansive than that and if so could someone please break it down for me.

I like to hear how our healthcare system could have changed for the better. And CarterCare could lay the groundwork for a public option or maybe even universal healthcare in the decades to come.
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I'm trying to remember the ins-and-outs of Carter's healthcare proposal (CarterCare) but isn't it essentially the Affordable Care Act with hospital cost cap and cheap/free healthcare to women with children? Or is it more expansive than that and if so could someone please break it down for me.

I like to hear how our healthcare system could have changed for the better. And CarterCare could lay the groundwork for a public option or maybe even universal healthcare in the decades to come.

I've largely avoided trying to compare it to the ACA because it's not a neat comparison.

Essentially, it would've provided catastrophic care coverage for every American, expanded Medicare and Medicaid coverage and merged them into Healthcare, which could then be used to become a public option or expanded universal healthcare. All of this, however, is predicated on a hospital cost containment bill, and that's where the sticking point is because that's where the industry money is lining up against the package.
"Surely no-one could object to A Random Lawyer I Know as a Supreme Court pick!" Jimmy Carter thought to himself. "Charlie's a great guy! Now let me just take a comedically massive sip of Billy Beer before looking back at the main themes and promises of my election campaign."
Great chapter! So well written. Loved the Biden Carter friendship. It amazes me that IOTL Carter didn't get to nominate a Supreme Court Justice through his entire single term. I'm glad he got that chance here although his nominee did look like cronyism even though I understand Carter's reason for wanting him to be on the court.
Carter taking more of a interest in ADIS compared to Reagan will ALWAYS be better despite it already being labelled as "gay cancer".
Superb as usual.

I wonder how the NY Governors race is shaping out. I don't think Cuomo will win given the rough national environment of '82 (assuming he can still beat Ed Koch).
Speaking of Koch, will he be one of the subjects of a future post? Especially since the government is taking a stronger response to AIDS.
I've largely avoided trying to compare it to the ACA because it's not a neat comparison.

Essentially, it would've provided catastrophic care coverage for every American, expanded Medicare and Medicaid coverage and merged them into Healthcare, which could then be used to become a public option or expanded universal healthcare. All of this, however, is predicated on a hospital cost containment bill, and that's where the sticking point is because that's where the industry money is lining up against the package.
Ah ok, thank you! Hey that’s a massive improvement to American healthcare. And improved Healthcare will lead to greater economic growth.

Did Carter OTL or ITTL want to do US infrastructure improvement? Is he going to implement an infrastructure deal other than the renewable energy tax credits?

Speaking of taxes, will he modify the tax system in anyway? Perhaps he extends the 0% tax bracket from $3,400 to $4,000 and introduces a new 10% bracket. This is by what I mean:
0%: $0 - $4,000 (up from $3,400)
10%: $4,001 - $5,500
14%: $5,501 - $7,600
16%: $7,601 - $10,000
18%: $10,001 - $12,000
21%: $12,001 - $16,000
All other brackets are the same. This will put more money in everyone’s pockets, specifically lower to middle class which can funnel more home ownership, consumption (especially of American-made goods) but I’m sure this could have an issue with inflation due to economy in 1981. Maybe it gets proposed but dies in Congressional Committee or on a floor vote and nothing gets passed except maybe the 0% raise from $3,400 to $4,000. Carter himself could come out against it due to inflation concerns and balancing the budget, while some moderate Dems and moderate Republicans support it while some of the New Right proposes way more tax cuts that never make it out of committee.

Could even do a corporate tax change, making the first $10,000 dollars taxes at 10% with the rest remaining the same. And a minimum wage increase from $3.35 to $3.50.
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